The Gospel of Kindness

The Gospel of Kindness

Animal Welfare and the Making of Modern America

Book - 2016
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"From Sarah McLachlan as spokesperson in ASPCA commercials to Animal Cops television shows, the prevention of cruelty against animals seems a core value in American society. Yet flogging horses, betting on cockfights, and shooting species of birds to extinction to adorn women's hats were once common. After the Civil War a culture of animal advocacy developed in the United States. How and why a social movement centered on the defense of animals came about--and how this changed American culture--is the subject of Janet Davis' wide-ranging book. Janet Davis describes a period during which animal power was gradually being replaced by industrial power. Animal welfare organizations developed out of an urban setting, as humane societies mandated the humane treatment of laboring horses and oxen, combated vivisection, demanded care of animals bound for stockyards and for circus shows, and called for an end to the needless killing of birds for fashion. Advocates also preached the gospel of kindness abroad in India, Morocco, Turkey, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines, seeing kindness toward animals as a crucial part of modern American values that should replace the ways of backward cultures. Drawing heavily on religious faith, animal humanitarians connected animal welfare with virtually all facets of life--food, sanitation, entertainment, literature, labor, transportation, and many other topics--and made those they reached with their message think carefully about what divides humans and animals"-- Provided by publisher.
"When we consider modern American animal advocacy, we often think of veganism, no-kill shelters, Internet campaigns against trophy hunting, or celebrities declaring that they would "rather go naked" than wear fur. Contemporary critics readily dismiss animal protectionism as a modern secular movement that privileges animals over people. Yet the movement's roots are deeply tied to the nation's history of religious revivalism and social reform. The Gospel of Kindness explores the broad cultural and social influence of the American animal welfare movement at home and overseas from the Second Great Awakening to the Second World War. Dedicated primarily to laboring animals at its inception in an animal-powered world, the movement eventually included virtually all areas of human and animal interaction. Embracing animals as brethren through biblical concepts of stewardship, a diverse coalition of temperance groups, teachers, Protestant missionaries, religious leaders, civil rights activists, policy makers, and anti-imperialists forged an expansive transnational "gospel of kindness," which defined animal mercy as a signature American value. Their interpretation of this "gospel" extended beyond the New Testament to preach kindness as a secular and spiritual truth. As a cultural product of antebellum revivalism, reform, and the rights revolution of the Civil War era, animal kindness became a barometer of free moral agency, higher civilization, and assimilation. Yet given the cultural, economic, racial, and ethnic diversity of the United States, its empire, and other countries of contact, standards of kindness and cruelty were culturally contingent and potentially controversial. Diverse constituents defended specific animal practices, such as cockfighting, bullfighting, songbird consumption, and kosher slaughter, as inviolate cultural traditions that reinforced their right to self-determination. Ultimately, American animal advocacy became a powerful humanitarian ideal, a barometer of inclusion and national belonging at home and abroad that endures to this day"-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, [2016]
ISBN: 9780199733156
0199733155
Characteristics: xiii, 302 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm

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